“We don’t know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don’t always appreciate their fragility.”
We all want to make a good first impression. Whether it’s at the interview, making new friends, meeting your new partners parents or on your first day on the job.
There are a lot of statistics that get thrown around, but the general consensus is that it will take someone as little as 7 seconds to form a first impression of you – that’s not much time at all!
With that in mind, what can you do to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward when it really counts?
Psychology has a lot of insights to offer us here, and many leadership coaches advocate for strong emotional intelligence to help you through these trickier moments.
Emotional intelligence relates to a number of different things, but essentially it’s your own self awareness around how you feel, how you act and how you’re behaving in any given situation. It also means being aware of other people’s emotions and how that impacts their behaviour.
Emotional intelligence is a skill that can be developed, but it does take time and a lot of commitment. Here are five emotionally intelligent tactics that you can’t start working on today that will help you when trying to make a good first impression:
1. Self Reflection is Key
Before entering a room or meeting new people, take some time to reflect on how you’re currently feeling. How does meeting new people make you feel? Are you stressed and worried or confident and eager? How is that going to impact how you behave?
Taking a few minutes to reflect like this gives you the opportunity to ground your emotions and nip any bad behaviours in the bud before you even act on them!
2. Take Three Deep Breaths
You’ve probably heard many mindfulness advocate telling you that three deep breaths can make a big difference – and they’re right!
If you’re feeling nervous or you know the situation is going to cause you unease, taking three deep breaths can be all you need to make sure you stay calm and collected. It’s so effective because deep breathing increases oxygen to your brain, which in turn helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system – creating a state of calmness.
Doing this helps you to feel re-connected with your body and physical presence rather than lost in emotions of anxiety. Breath in deeply through your nose and out slowly through your mouth and see how much calmer you feel.
3. Focus on the energy of the room – and who you’re talking to
Strong emotional intelligence allows you to adapt to any situation as they arise. This doesn’t mean changing who you are but it’s about redirecting your energy to suit where you are and who you’re with.
If you walk into the interview room and everyone is demonstrating perfect posture, strong handshakes and there is little chit-chat going on, make sure you match this. Walking in with a big grin, messy handshake and too much enthusiasm could mean you miss the mark on your first impression.
4. Engage in Active Listening
‘We don’t listen to understand, we listen to respond’ is a popular saying, and it’s something that’s very true of people with low emotional intelligence.
When engaging in a conversation with someone make sure you engage in what is referred to as ‘active listening’. This means paying attention to what they’re saying, making eye contact, demonstrating non-verbal nods (smiling, nodding etc) and asking follow up or clarifying questions about what they have told you.
You’ll notice a marked difference in how this person responds to you, and you’ll definitely make a good first impression.
5. Make a connection instead of a conversation
In networking scenarios or when we generally meet new people, we go for the default question ‘What do you do?’ – it’s a question that often finds us pigeon holing ourselves and the other person and doesn’t allow much room to generate a connection.
Try asking different questions such as ‘What are your passions?’, ‘What do you spend most of your time doing?’ or ‘What’s your story?’. At an interview, try asking the interviewer ‘How did your career journey lead you to the business?’.
All of these are not only interesting, but the person you’re talking to us unlikely to have been asked them before. So who do you think they’re more likely to remember? The person who asked them what they do and had a conversation with or the person who asked them their passions and made a connection with them?
This list is not exhaustive, and you might be reading through thinking not all of them are suitable for you. That’s OK! They are ideas to help you on your way to building your emotional intelligence and creating great first impressions, every time.